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Irish Times: Cassells opens mediation talks on gas pipeline

Lorna Siggins, Marine Correspondent, and Liamy MacNally
Jan 26, 2006
The first formal mediation talks involving the five men jailed last year over their opposition to the Corrib gas onshore pipeline took place in north Mayo yesterday, just as a high-level Royal Dutch Shell delegation visited the area.
The men told the company it would be premature to meet the delegation during mediation talks, chaired by former Ictu secretary-general Peter Cassells.
Since his appointment in late October last year by Minister for the Marine Noel Dempsey, Mr Cassells has held informal discussions in north Mayo. However, last night the Rossport Five expressed serious concern about remarks Mr Dempsey made in the Dail yesterday.
The Minister told Labour marine and energy spokesman Tommy Broughan that he expected mediation to be completed “in the spring, over the next month or so”.
A spokesman for the five men said no deadline had been agreed with Mr Cassells, who, they believed in good faith, had been appointed by the Minister as an “independent” broker.
A spokeswoman for the Minister said that he had incorrectly referred to a month in the Dail and he believed mediation would take “a matter of months”.
The Royal Dutch Shell delegation, led by former Dutch prime-minister Wim Kok, met local politicians and residents in Belmullet yesterday and in Cornboy last night.
But Shell confirmed that written invitations had only been issued to “consenting” as distinct from “non-consenting landowners” living on the high pressure pipeline route.
Two opponents who asked to meet the delegation in a personal capacity in Belmullet yesterday were ushered out of the hotel grounds by security staff.
Dr Mark Garavan of the Shell to Sea campaign said this confirmed that the Shell visit was a “complete PR” exercise. This was denied by the company.
Shell said that “verbal invitations” to meet the delegation had been issued to the five men and to “non-consenting landowners” through an “independent third party”.
Travelling with Mr Kok are Nina Henderson, former president of US food company Bestfoods, and Maarten van den Bergh, a managing director with Shell since 1992, chairman of the board of directors of Lloyds TSB group and non-executive director of BT group and British Airways plc.
All three are non-executive board members and serve on the company's social responsibility committee, which also visited the controversial Shell project at Sakhalin island in Russia last year.
They were accompanied by Tom Botts, executive vice-president for Shell's European exploration and production business.
In a statement, Mr Kok said that the project was “very important” for “Mayo, for Ireland and for Shell”, but “it can only succeed in partnership with the local community”.
Independent Mayo TD Dr Jerry Cowley said he would tell the delegation in Dublin today that the pipeline could not go ahead as planned, due to serious safety concerns, and the company must opt for an offshore terminal.
“This is the company that jailed five Mayo men over their genuine safety fears, and I will inform the delegation that the jails of Ireland won't be big enough to hold objectors if they proceed against the people's will,” Dr Cowley told The Irish Times .
Constituency colleague Beverley Flynn (Ind) has called on towns “across the State” to “stake their claim” for a connection to the pipeline.

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